What comes to mind when you think of summer weather? Along with longer days and sunshine, this season has brought soaring temperatures and dangerous heatwaves to the northern hemisphere. As communities around the world face serious risks from the record-breaking heat, the global Red Cross Red Crescent network is helping people to stay safe.
Health concerns amid heatwave in Europe
Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers are on the ground in towns, cities and beaches as record temperatures sweep much of southern and central Europe.
According to weather reports, south and central Europe are experiencing the highest August temperatures in more than a decade. The Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre says this is indicative of a trend: hotter summers more often. Countries including Austria, Croatia, Italy, Hungary, Serbia, and Spain have seen temperatures climb to up to 107 degrees Fahrenheit.
“This prolonged period of extremely hot weather is particularly dangerous for people with existing health problems such heart conditions, high blood pressure and asthma, as well as older people and children,” said Dr. Jeya Kulasingam, health coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Europe. “It is vital that people stay hydrated and drink plenty of water, keep out of the sun and avoid over-exertion,” Dr. Kulasingam emphasized.
Volunteers across Europe have been visiting vulnerable community members including those who are homeless and older people—who are especially at risk during hot weather. In the Netherlands, Red Cross research revealed that just 18 percent of people check on elderly relatives in a heatwave.
“If you have older relatives or neighbors, giving them a call or visiting could save a life,” urged Dr. Davron Mukhamadiev, a health coordinator with the IFRC.
Daytime peak temperatures aren’t the only ones that pose a risk. “Night time temperatures are also remaining high which means our bodies have less chance to recover and rest while we are sleeping,” Dr. Mukhamadiev noted.
Red Cross public information campaigns are helping keep people safe across Europe. In Croatia, the Red Cross is distributing water and hand fans to people suffering in the heat—including tourists visiting outdoor events and drivers stuck in traffic jams. The Spanish Red Cross is present on 300 beaches to provide first aid and ensure people stay safe while having fun.
In Portugal, volunteers are keeping watch in areas at risk of wildfires and are urging the public to do the same. Last year, ferocious fires in central Portugal claimed 66 lives and destroyed hundreds of homes. Tragically, communities in Greece already faced devastation from wildfires earlier this summer.
Heatwave threatening food security in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Halfway across the world, a heatwave is also threatening the safety children and elderly in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), internationally known as North Korea. There has been no rainfall in DPRK since early July and—as temperatures average 102 degrees Fahrenheit—no rain is expected again until mid-August.
Any threat to food security in DPRK will have a serious effect on an already vulnerable population.
“We must not let this situation become a full-blown food security crisis. We know that previous serious dry spells have disrupted the food supply to a point where it has caused serious health problems and malnutrition across the country,” said Joseph Muyambo, Programme Manager for the IFRC in Pyongyang. “Rice, maize and other crops are already withering in the fields, with potentially catastrophic effects for the people of DPRK,” he continued.
The Red Cross has deployed emergency response teams and 20 water pumps to irrigate fields in the hardest-hit areas, while staff and volunteers are helping to raise awareness of the signs, symptoms and treatment of heat-related illnesses.
Heat and wildfires continue at home
Heatwaves and dry conditions are also impacting communities at home in the U.S., especially as wildfires continue raging in western states. Hundreds of wildfires have been burning across the country, affecting thousands of people out west. More than 1,000 American Red Cross workers are on the ground in California providing shelter, relief supplies and emotional support to those affected.
This summer—from coast to coast—communities are experiencing extreme heat and humidity. “This year's record breaking temperatures are consistent with the global trend of more frequent and intense heatwaves as a result of climate change,” Julie Arrighi, American Red Cross representative at the Climate Centre.
The American Red Cross is sharing tips to help people enjoy the summer safely.
DOWNLOAD RED CROSS APPS The Red Cross app “Emergency” can help keep you and your loved ones safe by putting vital information in your hand and settings for more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts including heat advisories and excessive heat warnings. The Red Cross First Aid App puts instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies at your fingertips including heat-related emergencies. Download these apps by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.
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